Swamp People

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 31•13

2013-10-cover smallThe Bangweulu Wetlands is the only place in Africa where the black lechwe still occurs in significant numbers with the population is estimated to be 75,000 strong. The wetlands also support a population of sitatunga and tsessebe. Bangweulu is classified as an Important Bird Area by Birdlife International and the Chikuni area was designated a Ramsar wetland of international importance in 1991. Bangweulu is especially well known as a stronghold of the enigmatic Shoebill Stork and a large population of Wattled Crane. The wetland system supports a large fish population upon which the local communities are heavily dependant for their livelihood.


The Bangweulu Wetlands Management Board (BWMB) is a Public Private Partnership comprising African Parks Network, Zambia Wildlife Authority (ZAWA) and six CRBs which manages the proposed Chikuni Community Partnership Park and the Bangweulu GMA. The Bangweulu Wetlands project area covers approximately 6,000 sq km. This project is a demonstration site for the UNDP REMNPAS project which, together with Government and partners, aims to develop this as a new model for the management of community wildlife resource areas.

An aerial view of black lechwe

The responsibilities of the Bangweulu Wetlands Board include park management, infrastructure development, ecological monitoring, law enforcement, community development and revenue generation (including both hunting and tourism). According to project agreements all revenues generated in the project area remain in the project area to cover the costs of its professional management. Revenues are split between the Bangweulu Wetlands Management Board, the six CRB’s and Chiefs and ZAWA.


The fulfilment of these responsibilities is the responsibility of a competent and diverse management team which is located at the project headquarters. This team is supported by African Parks head office. African Parks is a non-profit organisation that takes on direct responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of parks, in partnership with governments and local communities. By adopting a business approach to conservation, supported by donor funding, it aims to make each park sustainable in the long-term, thereby contributing to economic development and poverty alleviation. It currently manages seven parks in six countries – Chad, Congo, DRC, Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia – with a combined area of 4.1 million hectares. African Parks has no vested financial interests in Bangweulu Wetlands, with all income remaining in the Bangweulu Wetlands project within Zambia. To date over $8 million in donor funding has been committed to this important project. However, it is likely that it will take many years for the project to generate the revenue required to cover costs.  African Parks have committed to support its development throughout this time assuming that the agreement, signed in good faith, is respected.


The number of permanent employees under the project has grown from 2 in 2008 to about 85, including the line management. Staff from ZAWA and CRBs are seconded to the BWMB. During the construction phase there have been up to 200 additional temporary staff employed and there has been significant skills development amongst the local community. The impact of this project on rural local communities is considerable through the injection of funds into the local economy and the associated multiplier effects.


There has been considerable success towards the rehabilitation of the area and the development of a wildlife based economy that benefits the local community directly. A total of 65 law enforcement personnel are operational and have been issued with uniforms and patrol equipment necessary for their efficiency. In the last year 144 suspects have been arrested and 2.8 tonnes of bush meat, 29 firearms and other hunting equipment have been confiscated. A full review of the law enforcement effort was undertaken in 2011 in order to ensure further effectiveness and efficiency and its findings are being implemented. A light aircraft has been loaned to the project by African Parks and is adding great value to law enforcement and monitoring operations.


Infrastructural developments since 2008 have been considerable. The headquarters at Nkondo were completed including a six tent visitor’s camp which has good tourism potential, a workshop and offices. Four management houses have been built and the water reticulation and electric systems installed. Eighteen Scout houses and an office have been renovated at Chiunda Ponde and eight additional scout houses and storeroom constructed there. At Kopa, there were eleven new scout houses constructed as well as an office. At Chikuni, one office was renovated and old buildings demolished. Work on the dirt road from Mpika was conducted allowing all season access to Nkondo. Two bridges and a series of culverts were constructed between Chiunda Ponde and Chikuni. The permanent bridge over the Lukulu is now complete which allows better access to the prime hunting area. The Makanga Hunting Camp has been opened and taken its first guests with very positive reviews.

A local on a mokoro (boat)

A dynamic community team is in place consisting of a Community Coordinator who oversees three Community Development Facilitators (CDFs). The Board and CRBs play an active role in the development of the community component of the project. Community infrastructure projects including clinic buildings, health posts and school infrastructure have been supported. Various stakeholder meetings have been conducted on the sharing of benefits, fishing issues, information sharing and planning.


Research to gather scientific data on the important Shoebill is being undertaken as is research into the conservation and sustainable utilisation of the freshwater fishes of the Bangweulu Wetlands. Two aerial large mammal surveys have been conducted since the project inception with a further one planned for 2013. These surveys have given a good indication of wildlife numbers and seasonal distributions. The most recent estimate for Black Lechwe is 75,000 animals. Data from these surveys were used to set the hunting quotas for 2012 and 2013. These quotas are based on scientific data and are not determined by commercial interests – it is critical that the hunting operation does not erode the wildlife base upon which it depends.


BWMB is a model governance mechanism combining local communities, ZAWA and a professional management partner (APN) that can bring the donor funding and expertise necessary for success. Key to the success of the project is the development of income streams from tourism and hunting.


The African Parks staff at this project wish it to remain on a positive trajectory towards sustainability with the full support of the Government of Zambia and Zambia’s citizens.











In The Garden

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 31•13

logo In The Garden 2Bulbs are a wonderful asset in the garden.  They are easy to grow and often have very impressive flowers.  The well-loved amaryllis flowers in September/October and their large showy blooms come in many colours.  I keep mine in pots as it is so easy to forget where they are in the long dry season when they disappear. But a friend has them in an east-facing flowerbed where they have multiplied prolifically and look gorgeous.


Most bulbs, including agapanthus, should be planted at a depth three times the size of the bulb.  But amaryllis needs to have a small part of its bulb (the “shoulder”) above the soil.  The soil should be a rich, loamy compost with added river sand (fine gravel) for drainage.  Re-pot them in late winter – the last week of July and the first week of August –  if they need to be divided.  A fat flower bud will appear either before or soon after the first green leaves.  Four to six flowers will be carried on each stem.  When the flowers are over, remove the whole stalk.  Leave the green leaves to make more food for the bulb to store.  This is the time to add fertilizer.  Continue to water until the leaves die.  Then leave the pot only slightly damp through the winter.


This winter I decided to grow gladioli for a change.  Their roots are corms, not true bulbs, but need similar treatment.  I planted them on a bed of gravel to make sure they wouldn’t rot, and waited impatiently for the flowers.  I had almost given up when the flower buds shot heavenwards and within a week there were tall stately spikes of deep red flowers on every plant.  Before long I will be digging up the corms and keeping them safely for next year.


Other bulbs that are easy and rewarding are sprekelia ( the Jacobean lily), nerine gracilis ( a dainty little pink flower) and hymenocallis (the spider lily with long thin white petals).  The latter is easy and looks great en masse.


At this time of year, one thing is essential : MULCH.  Soil is the most precious asset in your garden.  It needs to be protected from the burning heat of direct sun in October and November.  And afterwards, it needs to be protected from pelting by heavy raindrops and erosion by rivulets of water.  Use whatever you have as a mulch.  All those dry leaves should not have been raked up and burnt…they are needed to cover the soil.  They can also be left to lie on top of grass at this time of year to conserve moisture.  The heat of direct sun will kill all the beneficial microbes, tiny insects and earthworms found in the top few centimetres of the soil.  Just put your hand FOR ONE SECOND in the stream of water that comes out of a hosepipe left lying in the sun for an hour or two.  Be careful as it will be scalding hot.  All living things in the topsoil will die if exposed to this kind of heat.  Water in the soil will also evaporate completely leaving the soil dry in a matter of hours.  The best mulch is coarse compost so empty out your compost heaps even if they have not fully decomposed and get all your soil surfaces covered with at least a 5cm thick layer.  Shredded newspaper, bark, groundnut shells, old leaves, uprooted weeds, even weeds that are growing, as long as the soil is protected.


By the way it is NOT a good idea to leave the hosepipe in the sun!  It will slowly but surely become less flexible and more prone to kinks.  And we know how annoying those are.  So get into the habit of coiling unused hosepipes in a shady spot.

Birds, Bugs and Bushes

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 31•13
Birds, Bugs and Bushes 1Ansellia africana     
Family: Orchidaceae
Common names: Leopard Orchid


This is the largest of the epiphytic orchids and grows in magnificent clumps in trees in the subtropical areas of southern Africa.


This orchid is an epiphyte, which means that the whole plant, roots and all, grow above ground, attached to the branches of trees. The roots, which anchor the plant to the tree, are specially adapted to absorb water and nutrients very quickly. An unusual feature are the needle-like roots pointing upwards which form in a dense mass around the pseudobulbs and catch the rotting leaves and detritus upon which the plant feeds. In the wild, plants live for a long time and can become very large, some estimated to weigh over a tonne.


The Ansellia africana orchid can be found in Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Nigeria, Burundi, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gulf of Guinea Islands, Rwanda, Zaire, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland along dry warm coasts and rivers to elevations of 2200 metres but usually below 700 metres.


The plant was named after John Ansell, an assistant botanist on an 1841 expedition to the Niger River and is commonly known as the Leopard Orchid.


Traditionally Ansellia africana is used as a love charm, as an antidote for bad dreams and at homesteads to ward off lightning. The Zulus use the roots, stems and leaves of this species to make a tea that functions as an emetic. In northern Zimbabwe this species leaves and stems are used to make a broth that is a supposed cure for madness and the Pedi tribe of Zimbabwe use this species to make an infusion that curtails coughing in children.


Flowering time for the Ansellia africana orchid is during the summer months. The flowers can last for between two and three months. Flowers are borne on branching sprays and are yellow and sometimes even green with typical red/brown or maroon leopard spots.





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Fool on the Hill

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 31•13

FOTHI’ve always maintained a vivid mental image of a female cheetah with cubs perched on a termite mound scanning a wind-rippled grassland peppered by herds of antelope. I’ve always hoped to fulfil this little fantasy on the Busanga Plains of the Kafue National Park (KNP). For one reason or another (and an excuse or two thrown in) it has taken me almost thirty years to fail to reach the Busanga Plains. And yesterday was no different. Once I went on a busman’s holiday with three or four other professional guides, travelling to the Ngoma and Nanzhila area in the south of the park. With the collective pool of enthusiasm and bush knowledge we shared and eyes sharpened by a long, hot safari season in the South Luangwa, I recall being blown away by the diversity of habitat and wildlife that makes up the whole. As Norman Maclean said, “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” And a helluva river she is, the Kafue, flowing some 256 km through the Park and shaping much of its 22,480 sqkm.  Apart from the dominant, dry and comparatively sparsely populated Miombo and Mopane woodland most of the other habitat is there by the grace of the river with the floodplains boasting riparian woodland and grasslands, dambos and nearby forests, thickets and savannah. Such varied habitat in turn gives KNP the greatest diversity of antelope species (twenty one in all!) of any African park, an arsenal of  predators to hunt them, and over 500 species of birds to goggle at if you’re that way inclined. With such credentials the KNP should be a world renowned safari destination, but I would hazard a guess that if you canvassed a thousand Europeans and Americans and asked them to name a game park in Africa, KNP would be mentioned less than a handful of times. Spin doctors call it “Africa’s best kept secret” which for me translates as “piss poor marketing” especially considering the history of tourism in KNP. The Park was officially opened by the Governor in 1958 by which time, largely due to the efforts of pioneering ranger Len Vaughan, there were eleven Game Department camps operational in the park. Of these only four remain in use (Nanzhila in the South and Treetops, Lufupa and Kafwala in the North) and only the last, Kafwala, operates in anything like the way that was originally intended; to provide affordable access to the Park for self-drive visitors. In the useful “A Visitors Guide to Kafue National Park” funded by the Danes, commissioned  by the Kafue Trust, edited by John Hanks (renowned Game Department biologist) and written by Peter Moss, it says of the self-drive 4×4 market “Routes through and around KNP are being enthusiastically developed”. Not enthusiastically enough I fear.


The visitors book at Kafwala Camp (which is a delightfully “old school” down to earth destination, very well run by WECSZ) speaks loudly of the Northern Kafue as the favourite stomping ground of many dynastic resident farming, hunting and safari families who have used the camp for decades as a base from which to fish and game-view (mostly by boat judging from their success at both). These are the same folks who have the best interests of the KNP at heart and who through voluntary work, donation and lobbying are partly responsible for there being anything left to conserve by the time the park came to the attention of the donors. It seems that apart from this one last bolthole there is no place left in the Kafue for people who would care to see it preserved. Throughout the 1980’s when the South Luangwa was becoming the fashionable destination for international clients and through tireless marketing by private operators was becoming well known to agents across the safari world, the Northern Kafue was only ever visited by the type of local tourists mentioned above. Or by a seemingly endless supply of British Caledonian (and later BA) air crew who were whisked away on their two day “lay” over by the infamous and charismatic Map Patel’s Busanga Trails; to be wined, dined, bedded and given some of the best big cat encounters anywhere in Africa. While we mainstream guides in the SLNP did everything by the book under the watchful, and critical eyes of Norman Carr, Phil Berry and Robin Pope the Busanga Boys were living it large and playing at Cowboys and Indians with a load of trolley dollies! And boy, were we jealous! Busanga Trails operated through the lean years of heavy poaching and it is to their credit, being the only presence in the area, that there was any game to be bartered by ZAWA when foreign investors turned their interest to the Kafue in the nineties and early noughties.


The formula for development of tourism in most African parks has long ago changed and with ZAWA having to rely on itself for funding with little help from central Government, tourism has to foot the bill. Old Game Department sites are tendered out to the highest bidder, with short operating seasons, high logistical costs, fixed fees and bed-night levies based on minimum occupancies ensuring that only top drawer operators in the $600-1,000 per person per night bracket can make the sums work. It’s hard enough to lure this kind of spending power to Africa at all, never mind a relative safari backwater; poor cousin to the better known Kenyan, Tanzanian and South African destinations.


With SLNP getting the jump on marketing and Lower Zambezi later snatching the title of Zambia’s “other” National Park, the KNP was left, like a comely sister on the sidelines, waiting to be asked to dance. Even with all the investment that Wilderness Safaris put into the Northern KNP, even with ballooning and night drives and walking trails on offer to sweeten the already lavish natural spectacles, it is estimated that the tourist traffic to KNP is only 15% of that to SLNP which itself is only just becoming better than marginal as a place to do business. For Wilderness Safaris this has meant scaling down their operations hugely, and for ZAWA this means that the dreamed-of cash-cow to be milked in perpetuity, has remained a weedy little veal of a thing. And to me it seems that the cost of this has been to alienate KNP from the public domain. The only camp we managed to book was Kafwala, but with around 90 kms between there and the legendary Busanga Plains where my cheetah family awaited, and two small boys attempting fratricide in the back seat until the tsetse drained them of the will to live, there was no way that Arthur Ansell (who had frequented all the back tracks of the KNP from North to South as a Game Department child in the 1960’s) and myself were going to make the round trip in a day. Chilanga had helpfully sold us around $300 (reluctantly in Kwacha of course) of permits to enter the park, self-drive and camp, omitting to mention of course, that this latter activity was not legally possible anymore, since all of the designated campsites had long been pimped to investors and made out of bounds to cheap-skates like us. We forged northwards but still only managed to reach Treetops where the staff (pitilessly and quite rightly) turned us away. Heading south again we were impaled on the horns of a dilemma and with the Landrover spluttering on bad jerry-can fuel from Mumbwa, my sons nauseous from blood loss and jarring roads, and the sun sinking fast, we made the executive decision to obey the spirit of the law (if not its letter) and made a dry camp at one of the few gazetted sites not already upgraded for use by filthy capitalist pigs … I mean foreign visitors. Morning came and leaving nothing but footprints as we are well trained enough to do, we turned south again. Disappointed (in my case quite bitterly) that the only way I am going to see the Busanga is by driving around three sides of the Park so that I can bushcamp in the GMA at Lushimba Gate on the Western boundary and then dash onto the plains like an adulterer and drive around until I am chased away by an operator. Too bad, I was thinking as we made our way back to Muyukuyuku, where we found a group of 9 French travellers shoehorned into two Landcruisers who were saying exactly the same thing (“Tant pis”). Nine foreign tourists who like us, would happily have paid $20 each to overnight in a ZAWA managed campsite inside the Park if such a thing existed. It is only ZAWA who could afford to run such a low rent operation, as it is only ZAWA who don’t have to pay ZAWA the almost prohibitively high concession fees. All they need to do is identify two or three of the several thousand perfect spots between the Lufupa River Camp area and the Plains, dig some long drops, set up some bucket showers and truck in the occasional load of nkuni and place at these sites one or two of that army of scouts who languish in various parts of the country on full salary lacking the will or physical ability to undertake arduous patrols, to collect the money. It might not be a fortune, but each camp would certainly raise a few thousand dollars (I mean Kwacha) a year to be put towards sitting allowances for all the meetings at Chilanga. And it would open up the KNP once more to Zambians and residents of Zambia who might actually care for the place to continue to exist as it does, somehow miraculously a few hours from hungry Lusaka.


I never saw the cheetahs, but I did see a sexy little serval … and a melanistic (black) genet which was a first for me and Arthur both. And on leaving for Lusaka we were told that on a recent visit, Xen Vlahakis, ZAWA’s DG had taken this same message on board and assured Kafue operators that campsites, run by and for the fiscal benefit of the community, might actually be on the cards. Hurrah! We’ve come full circle since Norman Carr set up Nsefu Camp in 1951 … was that a penny I heard drop just then?



Mole in the Hole

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 31•13

logo MITHThe Barman


The silence was palpable. It was noon in the vast, dark space that was the ballroom of the Kings Head, a large post war built pub opposite the Bus depot and the chemical works situated in the sprawl of buildings on the west side of Luton. As an impoverished young employee of Her Majesty’s Ordnance Survey, I needed  as much part time work as I could get and worked all the hours available as a bar man. All morning I had worked, clearing away from last night, moving empty cases out into the yard, looking out for the wasps that were always at the Britvic juice and Babycham bottles. The stale aroma from the empty beer bottles joined the fetid, smoggy atmosphere that was Luton personified. Only rarely was a glimpse seen of the Chiltern Hills to the South.


The bar was ready for action again, last night was and tonight would be extremely jolly and busy, there was a band last night and tonight there was a singer and a comedian to entertain the patrons. Now, however, there unfolded an utterly different occasion. Into the bar came the first customer. Dressed in a black suit, whose trouser legs were just a little short, came an Irishman. His white shirt gleamed in the gloom, his black tie was neat, his black working boots were polished to an incredible sheen, he was all clean from head to foot, his pale ginger hair plastered onto his skull. He asked for a Guinness (not easy to pour swiftly but less of a problem than a Worthington’s pale ale), was given the same and he retreated to a table in the corner to sip his beer quietly. It was not long before many more, identically garbed Irishmen, were also sipping their Guinness at tables throughout the ballroom, all in total silence. Each would consume some four beers before closing time at 14 hours when all would depart for their digs to have their Sunday lunch. They had all been to church and now had communed with their inner selves and sins and placated their doubts and home sickness by the application of that liquid solace, Guinness. By closing time I was exhausted; pouring out some 800 bottles of beer in two hours was no joking matter. I, too then went home to have my lunch. The landlady, one Mrs. Capp, a widow who always looked as if she would not be much longer for this world, served me up the meat and two veg and then departed to see her daughter for her weekly afternoon tea. Her routine was unfailing as was her response to my cheery enquiry after her health every morning: “Oh, not too good, thank you”.


A quick kip and then it was back to the pub to prepare for the heavy evening behind the bar. First, do a stock check, then check the float that you were issued with, very carefully. Landlords like to make quick bucks too and are not averse to make them from unwary staff. There were several golden rules to obey when behind the bar, not least always having a supply of good tea cloths to dry glasses and plenty of hot water to wash them and cold water to rinse them. Beer in a hot glass is just not on. To keep the till money always more than it should be you accept the offer of money for a drink but do not have it, the money ensuring that there is always a small surplus in the till to guard against the inevitable odd mistake with change in the customer’s favour. You would soon be told if it was the other way round.  The evening progressed, the patrons who had supped in silence at lunch time were now convivial and many were well oiled by last orders. Then the clean up, the stock check, the cash check and back to the digs by midnight to get some rest before another day of surveying rows of houses, back yards, snotty householders and the odd large tree. To the inevitable query, “What’s it all in aid of?” you stifle the urge to expound on airports. Only rarely, when driven to extremis by some nosey old cow who, rather than enquire, summoned the police, observing all from behind her lace curtains; was disappointed by their departure without arresting me so that she had to emerge and ask me herself; did I inform her that the wood behind her posh house was being planned to accommodate a council estate. “Just imagine, Madam” said I, in grave, sympathetic tones,” the children and the DOGS”.


A different life, a different continent, Kalulushi and the golf club where I had taken Johnny Bruce, newly transferred from Mufulira, for a welcome drink after work. He was a whisky drinker and there was some Black and White in the Optic behind the bar and he was served some by Bryson, the long serving barman. I had a beer and we settled down to watch the golfers coming in from their 9 holes of golf. Johnny, somewhat embarrassed, told me that the whisky he was drinking was not expensive, imported Black and White but Duncans, the cheap substitute, made up of neutral spirit and whisky flavouring. I apologised and went to the bar to inform Bryson of his error and to bring out a fresh bottle of Black and White to correct the mistake. It then transpired that Bryson was in the habit of putting local spirits in all the imported spirit bottles, be they gin, whisky, brandy etc and charging the price for imported spirits.  He had no stocks of imported spirits at all! He was doing this under the direct orders from the bar and entertainments committee member, none other than the irascible Maurice Keegan, who had resorted to these underhand methods to try and show a profit on the bar.  It was but a matter of minutes before said Maurice and I had a bit of a heated discussion, the upshot of which was that I became the bar and entertainment committee member!


The problems were numerous, the answers simple but time consuming. The principal problem was the supply of beer. At this time Zambia Breweries were having a major problem with, I suspect, the bottle cleaning system. The business of opening a beer was one long laborious process. First, the unopened bottle was held up to the light to check for “floaters”, ranging from grasshoppers to small flecks of yeast or some such. Next the unopened bottle would be given a gentle shake to see if it showed a bit of head. If that was successful then the bottle could be opened and smelt. A powerful odour of “rotten eggs” could come out. The top of the bottle was checked to ensure that it was intact so that there would be no glass chip in the bottom of the bottle ready to come out. The beer was then poured and, with a little bit of luck, you could imbibe some of the finest beer in the world, brewed in Ndola. It was a shame that Bryson was neglecting these checks and many was the beer opened to find that it was undrinkable so that it had to be replaced, free of charge. To counter much of the problem every beer had to be checked on its arrival and rejected at once which meant that all deliveries had to be met and supervised by myself. One immediate consequence was that the deliverers were not keen on coming to the Golf Club because they knew that the checking process would be lengthy and thorough and they could no longer off load the junk that had been rejected elsewhere! Bryson was soon brought to heel. He had a comfortable lifestyle that seemed to exceed his modest salary. For all I know he might have been running a string of race horses or girls but it became obvious to him that the daily stock check along with the cash receipts reconciliation did not allow for any of the freedom of yesteryear. By such basic means the loss made by the bar returned to a 30% profit. There remained some problems. One was the occasional shortage of beer. Jimmy Tweedy, who had taken over the running of the Mine Club from Lou the Jew, never seemed to run out of beer. I found out when I found him at the beer depot in Kitwe where he seemed to be very free with his cash. I had to point out to him that backhanders were only bad news for, before long, no one would get beer without the provision of a sizeable ”bung” and the trouble with bungs were that they were subject to inflation. A bit of effort was required to rectify the situation that included tap dancing on ZB desks in Ndola.


Another problem was that I had to attend golf club committee meetings. These tended to go on about things that I knew very little of. The Captain, my next door neighbor, was Harry Hambley, an old hand in the Purchasing Department. He had, and, believe you me, protected, a handicap of 14. It was his policy that he would play golf with every committee member and I used to be dragged out for 9 holes up against the very best the club could provide. Harry confided in me “Don’t you worry, every now and again you will hit a good shot that will win a hole and that is all I need”. There was, then, the odd time that this happened and I went home with money in my pocket. On all the others though, Harry would start muttering about ironing on the way over to the 9th tee. What was he talking about? In fact it was the word press that he needed to hear from the opponents to which he agreed (it was double or quits.) We never lost the last hole and Harry and I would walk off the course with me being assured that it needed “an old dog to travel a long road!”


At one committee meeting the matter of “Greens Mowers” came up. Our existing mowers were on their last legs; the friends at the mine garage could no longer repair them, new ones were required. What to do? All eyes turned on the sucker at the end of the table and I was informed to think of something. What was needed? K2000. That was an enormous amount of money, why, you could buy a brand new Fiat 127 motor car for that. So, let’s get one and raffle it off. How boring. How can we jazz it up a bit? It was then that I remembered that amongst us merry miners there was a fairly good jazz band; the leader of which was a keen golfer and boiler maker, the large and amiable Barry the Bear who was a pretty good trombone player. A plan came together, 600 tickets had to be sold at K10 each which would allow you entrance to the jazz evening at which the draw would take place. Here, though, came the twist, the first number out of the hat would get a bottle of champagne, the last number out of the hat would get the car. All tickets were sold, most of the ticket holders pitched up and a rip roaring evening was had by all. The jazz band played their socks off, lubricated by copious quantities of beer. Matters were halted briefly when there were only 10 tickets left and,‘if anyone wanted to auction their ticket off, they could, with 20 % commission charged. Down to the last two tickets, one held by none other than the toupee clad pilot, Noel Elliot-Wilson. He promised his companion a new set of clubs if he won and then demanded that the losing number be pulled out of the hat. “We need a lovely, lucky lady to do that,” he yelled, and spotting the young, portly and not too attractive Mrs. Rixom, grabbed her and said  ”Come, my beauty, do the honours”, at which she pulled out the wrong number and was castigated by the thwarted man for being a stupid cow and was promptly thumped by the lady for his presumption. The dust up was settled  by the application of more champagne and a posse was dispatched to the house of the winner, a brand new impoverished arrival from the UK, young Alan Armitage, who could not believe his luck. His wife managed to write the car off some time later but Alan’s luck held. She was unharmed and he eventually rose to the giddy heights of Engineering Superintendent who never forgot the golf club and made sure our brand new greens mowers stayed in pristine condition for years after.



Beauty Naturally

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 31•13

2013-10-cover smallEYE REMEDIES

This month we are talking about eyes. As the saying goes “The eyes are the mirror of the soul”, of course (I assume!) it refers to the light that shines through your eyes, not to the skin around them, but the skin around them is “the frame of the mirror”.

The two annoying facts about eyes, apart from the REALLY ANNOYING fact that the delicate area around them is one of the first places where the signs of ageing strike, are: dark circles and puffy eyes.

The skin around our eyes is thin, in fact it is the thinnest layer of skin that we have on our entire body, making it very easy to appear bruised or puffed, no matter how old we are.

Dark circles around the eyes can be caused by a number of different things such as lack of sleep, drugs, alcohol, smoking, poor diet, iron deficiency, allergies and even genetics.

Puffy eyes is normally fluid retention and can be caused by illness, pregnancy, again genetics, can be an allergic reaction, hormonal fluctuations, dehydration (not drinking enough water and hangover related!) etc.

While you are trying to figure out which one is the cause of your dark circles or puffiness, try these simple, inexpensive and fun homemade remedies.



No, it is not a cliché, I promise you it works, try one (or all) of these:

1- simply close your eyes, apply a thick slice of cucumber to each eye and leave it for 20 minutes.

2- squeeze the juice out of the cucumber, dip a clean cotton ball into it and apply it to the skin around the eyes (best if the juice is cold).

3- make a soothing and cooling gel: mix one tsp of strained cucumber juice, one Tbs of aloe vera gel, and ¼ tsp cornstarch in a small saucepan and heat gently without boiling. Remove from the heat and add 1 Tbs of chamomile tea stirring well until all is properly mixed. Leave it to cool and transfer into a sterilised jar. Keep in the fridge for a maximum of three days. To use, gently dab onto the soft skin under the eyes.



the antioxidants found in tea can be highly beneficial to the delicate skin around the eyes, helping to tighten the skin while the caffeine (if you chose to use normal tea) is highly effective in reducing the puffiness and dark circles that can leave the eyes looking tired. You can use normal tea, green tea, chamomile tea (great anti inflammatory properties) and don’t forget the highly antioxidant properties (good for wrinkles too!) of our African-born rooibos. Simply take the tea bags, rest them in warm water for 5-10 seconds, wrap them in cling film and put them in the freezer for 15 minutes or until cool. Find a nice quite spot, lie down and “wear” them (they need to be cool but also still moist) for 15-20 minutes. Tip for dry ageing skin: before applying the wet cold tea bags on your eyes, dab the skin around them with some good olive oil (or any of your preferred oils, see August Lowdown) and put the tea bags on top of it.



Milk has great lightening abilities for the skin and helps with dealing with dark circles under the eyes. Take some cold milk and dip two cotton balls into it. Squeeze the extra milk from the cotton balls, place them on your eyelids and relax for 15 minutes. Wash your face and see the difference.



There’s nothing quite like a cool strawberry right from the fridge on a warm summer day. If you have puffy, tired looking eyes, next time you reach for a cold strawberry, grab a couple of extra strawberries for your eyes too. Besides doing a great job of reducing swelling, strawberries naturally contain alpha-hydroxy acid (found in many expensive facial creams, although in that case it could be synthetically produced): this naturally occurring ingredient is great for making skin smoother and younger looking. Remove the tops from large, fresh, refrigerated strawberries, and slice them about ½ cm thick. Find the usual quiet spot, place the cold strawberry slices under your eyes, and allow them to remain there for several minutes. Wash, dry and moisturise as usual.


There we go: simple, cheap and fun. One last thing … before you try those, make sure you sleep enough, drink lots (of water!), and smile … no matter how old you are, how puffy your eyes look, smiley eyes make you beautiful – always!


By Paola from Essential Skincare

Book Review

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 31•13

logo Book Review




A Visitor’s Guide To Kafue National Park
By Peter de Vere Moss


Guide books to Zambia are now two a penny. In the travel section of any bookshop you will find at least three or four. But few of them will be able to compete with Peter de Vere Moss’ A Visitor’s Guide To Kafue National Park.


This pocket sized book has been a number of years in the making. In fact I searched back through my emails and found a communication with Peter back in 2007 saying that his next project would be a handbook on the Kafue National Park. Of course other things happen in between, but I can imagine that gathering and collating the information contained in this comprehensive guide would take years to complete.


The book is well structured with information on planning your trip, how to get there, where the entrance gates are and where to stay, all with GPS co-ordinates. The ready reference on places to stay takes up more than a page and a half (I never realised there were so many) and gives information on what style of accommodation (bush camp, lodge etc), whether full or self catering and whether seasonal or year round. It also gives you a price range which is very handy.


The detailed lodge/camp section is categorised according to the area of the park (north east etc) and apart from GPS co-ordinates, there are details of what visitors can expect and a small photo or two.


The chapter on managing the Park is extremely interesting as it gives one an insight into the issues and challenges which not only ZAWA but also the operators face in trying to keep this park a pristine wilderness area and safe haven for our diminishing wildlife.


The section on travel tips is more relevant to the international traveller or newcomers to Zambia, but that does not make it any less necessary. Even for us locals, it’s a good idea to check that nothing is forgotten; a weekend in winter without a pullover can make what should be an enjoyable trip very unpleasant.


The final chapter of this 176 page book is a checklist of wildlife (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish – I did say it was comprehensive ) and common trees , a listing of the local names for some of the trees and a brief description of the most common trees found in the Park.


There are map interspersed throughout the text of the book and there is a large foldout map at the back of the book.


This guide is published by the Kafue Trust with support from the Royal Danish Embassy and is available from local bookshops.


This guide is a must if you are visiting the Kafue National Park.


Camp Zed

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 31•13

2013-10-cover smallWith the decision to convert the camp tents into chalets at Samango Camp, the Heroes and Unity long weekend was the ideal time to kick-start renovation building works with a solitary effort devoid of any distractions.


With the vehicle loaded to the gunnels with building materials and the usual refreshments, my two helpers and I set off from Lusaka. Deviations, pontoon delays and a herd of elephant blocking the road near camp made it a five hour drive.


A mental calculation defines what can be achieved over a LONG weekend with a hired truck to transport local building materials, stones, river sand, building sand and gravel.


The Bush telegraph has worked, because a horde of casuals arrived at camp. A day rate of pay is negotiated and 13 are hired – an unlikely and unmanageable number as it turns out. In addition upon arrival it was discovered that the water pump has seized.


Two gangs working at both ends of the site makes supervision a testing task. The moment one’s back is turned work slows or comes to a halt or instructions are misunderstood with plans going awry! The river trip with Noble and David was a marvelous interlude but there was a price to pay as work on site ground to a halt as soon as the boat left shore.


More lost time and lack of progress further interrupted with the theft of our camp manager’s torch the previous night. Accusations and inquisitions lead to the recovery of the torch which had miraculously found its way into one of the casuals’ houses.


Fortunately, the magnificence of the Zambezi, wonderful sunrises and sunsets linked to suitable liquid refreshments, go a long way to compensate for lack of achieving targeted progress. The sighting of the very shy Samango monkey, our resident pod of hippos and elephant visitations all help to balance things. Mother Nature is so soothing.


The moral and message of the bush building exercise is – set your targets, then divide by a factor of two and then divide again by two. Do not worry, we will get there in the end!


The solution is to split into three gangs, transporting one into the hills to collect rocks.


On site work is slow to start in the mornings, with a workers breakfast which lasts until 8.30; visits onto site of an elephant herd requiring all to down tools, and a one and a half hour lunch break. Progress is nothing going according to plan. A tour of the nearby lodges confirms that after stripping the pumps, they have seized. Recovery is possible by borrowing a pump from Claire, a friendly neighbor.


The truck does not appear until we are packing up to leave, the monkeys have knocked the loo roll into the toilet, not once but twice. (Remember to take a good supply of loo rolls!).


Frustration and exhaustion set in, but Sunday’s visit by Noble and David Findlay broke the tedium.  I hitched a ride for a tour downstream. This does not take long at 80 kmph in Noble’s super swift boat.  Noble did say he hit 110 kmph at one point on the way down from Gwabi. Supersonic, compared with the 10-20 kmph vehicle drive in on the atrocious roads.


By Andy Anderson




afFAIRS of the heART

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 31•13

DSC_2935As we sit here preparing articles for the October edition of The Lowdown, the temperatures over the last few days have suddenly risen. Yes, suicide month is almost upon us and that will be closely followed by, we hope, the start of the rains and then Christmas.  We are also reminded that October, November and December will also see the start of a series of fairs where the best of Zambia’s artists and crafters will be selling their goods. The Zambian Art and Design Show is one of these.


Preparations for this year’s show have already started. In fact, for the artists and crafters they started shortly after last year’s show – production is ongoing and the annual fair is the culmination of the year where these talented people not only exhibit but also sell their creations.


The Zambian Art and Design Show has become an annual event; the first one held in 2007 was a low key Christmas Fair held in the back garden at Sugarbush Farm. Since then it has grown in size and stature with forty exhibitors and over 2000 visitors at last year’s show. Goods on exhibit include handmade furniture, kitchenware, handmade glassware, nougat, jewellery, recycled fashions, leather luggage, pottery and hand woven rugs and textiles; all of it inspired, designed and produced to a high quality in Zambia and our neighbouring countries


This year, the show will be held, as it was last year, at the Polo Club in Lusaka.  The scheduled date is 24 November and gates open at 9 am.  Apart from being able to do your gift shopping, there will be entertainment for adults and children including music from the disco machine, games for the children and the all important food and beverage stalls to feed the inner person.


For further information, whether you are a shopper or a would-be exhibitor, contact Nancy on Tel: 0977 808-002 or email sugarbushfair@gmail.com. www.zambianartanddesignshow.org


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Caring for Nkala

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 31•13

2013-10-cover smallNkala, the latest elephant calf to join the nursery herd at the Elephant Orphanage Project (EOP) at Lilayi, was rescued from Kafue National Park area.


Nkala was discovered by the local community alone and distressed amongst their cattle after his herd had visited the village and the cattle had stampeded.  The little chap got left behind in the mayhem that followed.  When search teams could not find his herd, the local community, having heard about the Elephant Orphanage on the local community radio, insisted that ZAWA contact them.


Game Rangers International (GRI) and ZAWA units were mobilised  swiftly and with the help and cooperation of ZAWA, and especially Area Warden Moonga, a very tired, thirsty and hungry Nkala was transported first to Camp Phoenix in KNP and then on to Lilayi. The transfer to Lilayi was done with the very generous help of Royal Air Charters and support from the ZAWA Ngoma Unit, Itezhi Tezhi District Commissioner and UNZA vet Dr Haachilala. On arrival at Lilayi, Nkala ventured out into the boma area to investigate his new surroundings.


Due to his young age Nkala is highly vulnerable but seems to have adjusted to the massive changes in his short life: losing his mother and family, as well as adapting to a new diet of the nutrient rich milk formula which the orphans are fed.  This is an essential life saving formula but it will never be quite like his mother’s milk. Often the young elephants struggle to adapt to the change in their diet. Nkala initially showed signs of depression and was not socialising well and keeping to himself, but he is now becoming an active member of the Nursery herd.


A visit to the Elephant Orphanage is indeed a moving experience.  They are open daily from 11.30 am when you can see Nkala and the other orphans drinking their milk and mud-bathing. As the weather has warmed so has their interest in cooling off in the red mud so it is a real treat to witness. GRI and the EOP is 100% donor funded and whilst they do not charge for the elephant viewing experience they do rely heavily on donations. Nkala’s rescue could not have been achieved without the help of the Nkala community, ZAWA Area Warden Mr Moonga, Ecologist Mr Chifunte and WPO’s, Dr Mutinta Haachilala, Rob Stacey and Royal Air Charters, Brendan Raisbeck and all at LILAYI, the Miller family, GRI staff and volunteers and all the other supporters who have been involved with this rescue. Nkala is fostered by Travelport Zambia Limited.


For more information on our Foster an Elephant Scheme please contact info@gamerangersinternational.org



October 2013

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 01•13

September 2013

Written By: The Lowdown - Sep• 01•13

August 2013

Written By: The Lowdown - Aug• 01•13

Cover - 2013-08

Playing With The Lion’s Tail

Written By: The Lowdown - Aug• 01•13

Cover - 2013-08When reading the newspapers, hardly a day goes by when your attention is not drawn to the plight of wildlife somewhere in the world.

Granted, this seems to be occurring mostly in Africa and Asia; in other words, the developing world. This statement must however be balanced with the fact that the western world records large numbers of animal species which are now extinct, some having become extinct only in the last few decades. Thus it is not only something which is happening in the developing world which is what it often looks like; the western world too have played their part in the disappearance of certain species.

But what has happened to Europe or America’s wildlife is not really what we are concerned about. Instead we are concerned about what is happening to African wildlife and our country’s national heritage and the benefits that preservation of this wildlife can bring to Zambia especially, and Africa as a whole.

One of the most iconic species of animal, a species which has captured the imagination of the world, is without doubt the lion. Not only is the King of Beasts an important part in the passage to manhood by African boys, but it also adorns the flags, crests and coins of the western world and now, seemingly, the bedrooms of some Asian gentlemen!

It is difficult to establish how large Africa’s lion population was with figures quoted ranging from between 100,000 and 250,000 less than fifty years ago. It is also difficult to establish how large the current population is, as again figures differ. The general consensus seems to be that the African lion population is estimated to have dwindled to around ninety percent of what it was! It is thus fitting that Saturday 10 August 2013 is being recognised as World Lion Day.

The major threat to lion populations is human conflict. The shrinking African grasslands as a result of a change in land use to agriculture, the fragmentation of the remaining suitable habitat including deforestation and the indiscriminate killing in defence of life and livestock has taken a heavy toll on lion populations. Studies indicate that the ecosystem of fifty years ago has shrunk to a quarter of what it was and is said to be almost as severe as the loss of the world’s rainforests. Other threats to lion populations are the depletion of their prey base as a result of illegal poaching. With Africa’s, and indeed Zambia’s, exploding population, this is not likely to change soon.

Trophy hunting and other trade in lions is also a factor in the reduction in lion populations. Hunting of lions is disruptive to the lion’s social system. Trophy hunters select and kill the adult male lions in a pride, thereby disrupting the reproduction of the species. Killing the male leader leaves the rest of the pride vulnerable to attack from outsiders. In addition to this, when a new male takes over the pride, he will kill all the other cubs to establish his dominance.

In the decade from 1999 to 2008, over 500 lions were exported from Zambia, representing nearly one quarter of Zambia’s total lion population. The main exports were hunting trophies with the main importer of these trophies being the USA. A positive development was the recent banning of trophy hunting of large cats, not only by Zambia but also Botswana and Kenya. Bold moves indeed which need to be applauded and with Zambia’s estimated lion population at just over 1,800, not a moment too soon. As they say, a lion can only be shot only once by a trophy hunter, whereas it can be shot a million times by a tourist.

But this is the legal trade. What of the illegal trade?

The world is experiencing an unprecedented increase in illegal wildlife trade, threatening to nullify decades of conservation and development gains. With the growth in both the populations and economies of eastern Asia, the demand for wildlife products, which includes lion bones, has rocketed together with the price for these products. This has in turn resulted in the increased involvement in well-organised criminal syndicates which are suspected of being Asian-run. In addition, some of Africa’s armed rebel groups have started using wildlife products as a way of funding their particular illegal or rebel operations. The value of the illegal trade in wildlife is estimated at US$ 10bn each year. This has resulted in the USA and the UN declaring wildlife trafficking as a security threat rather than something which concerned only little old ladies and a bus load of bunny huggers. The recent announcement in Tanzania of the American initiative against wildlife trafficking is indeed welcomed although we have yet to see how it pans out in practice. This, coupled with the Chinese government’s recent commitment to fight the illegal wildlife trade, means we may have some good news on the horizon.


Taking To The Skies

Written By: The Lowdown - Aug• 01•13

Cover - 2013-08To drive from Livingstone to Lusaka is five hours solid driving. It is a tiring journey watching out for the odd pothole (not too many these days, thank goodness), cows, donkeys, people and keeping an eye open for bad drivers. So when I was asked to go to Lusaka and was given a ticket to fly, I was more than happy. Actually I hadn’t been to Lusaka in years – probably about four years – just because I dreaded the drive there and back.

I walked over to the airport as I live nearby, greeting the staff and chatting as I arrived. I found the airport cat cleaning itself in the domestic departure lounge; all the passengers seemed to be entertained by her presence.

We all sat and waited for the call to get onto the Proflight plane. I had a look at the new construction going on at the airport – it is going to be massive when it is finished and make us look very modern. Meanwhile the cat had come outside and was trying to catch a drongo, failing miserably.

As we took off I looked down over Dambwa Forest with the hope of seeing some elephants, but I didn’t notice any. With over a hundred elephant now roaming around Livingstone it would not have been unusual to see them there. I did notice that the fence around the airport was down in some places and knew that the elephants had visited.

I love seeing Africa from the sky – a magical experience. As we flew over the landscape I looked down through the odd cloud trying to recognise places I know so well. Over the farming areas around Choma and Mazabuka I could see the commercial farms with their massive circles of, I assumed, wheat watered by centre pivots. Then we went over the Kafue River, now quite low, snaking between the swamps providing a haven for lechwe and sitatunga. It reminded me of my recent trip to Lochinvar National Park on the southern edge of the Kafue River and its floodplain.

As we arrived over Lusaka I could see the sprawl of the capital gradually moving outwards. The homes full of people who had arrived for work or to try to get work as Zambia goes through an economic boom. Lusaka has a population of around 2 million – around 15% of Zambia’s population. I was so glad that I didn’t live there.

Touching down in Lusaka, fresh and ready for a days work, I reflected on what a quick and easy trip it had been, boarding formalities in Livingstone (and on the return journey) were quick and painless, the aircraft was comfortable with professional, polite and pleasant crew. Plus we were on time.

And best of all, I knew that the next day I would be home within an hour.

Taking To The Skies